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Posted by Doug Root on 17th Aug 2020

A Dimmer Switch for LED Lights: What You Need to Know

Most of the world has been lit by incandescent light bulbs for a very long time. For a long time, they were the most cost-effective light bulbs and easy to obtain, despite the fact that they break easily and burn out too quickly by the modern standards of fluorescent lights and LEDs. The historically high cost of LEDs and special equipment that you need to use with fluorescent lamps have made incandescent bulbs, and to a lesser extent, halogen bulbs, nearly ubiquitous, especially in residential settings.

When it comes to providing a dimmer switch for an incandescent bulb or a series of bulbs, fitting one to your location normally isn’t too much of a chore. As long as the dimmer switch in question is rated for the voltage of the setting, and the total wattage of all the lamps on the circuit is within the rated range for the dimmer, you should be good to go. This has made it easy for homeowners to build dimming capabilities into the layouts of their homes for years with a simple dimmer switch.

In recent years, LED lighting has taken over many markets in which it was previously little more than a novelty, and one of these is the market for home lighting. LEDs have become much more affordable in the last two decades and vastly outperform incandescents, halogens, and even fluorescents on a number of grounds. With that in mind, however, they require the use of certain specialized equipment such as drivers to regulate their operation. By the same token, in many cases, regular dimmers switches will not work with LED bulbs, making a special dimmer switch for LED lights a necessity.

While many LEDs today are dimmable LEDs (not all are) you should still use a special dimmer switch for LED lights in order to avoid some of the common problems associated with incompatible dimmers. Because traditional dimmer switches are used to working a different wattage than LED light bulbs, the LEDs may not respond to the dimmer at all. In addition, you can experience problems with a lower noticeable ability to dim the lights, LEDs that flicker, or LEDs that do not shut off when the dimmer is lower is lowered all the way because the LEDs will draw so little power that the dimmer will not even detect it.

The method by which an LED dimmer works is fairly simple and more or less analogous to how traditional dimmer light switches work - the main difference lies in the fact that LEDs draw less power than other traditional lights, so compatible dimmers must work with these lower wattages.

All dimmers work by reducing the amount of power that is fed to the light by diminishing either the leading edge or the trailing edge of the wave of energy that the light receives. Many LEDs today are designed to be compatible with common trailing edge household dimmers, but not all of them are.

Many LED dimmers work by the principles of PWM dimming or CCR Reduction. PWM or pulse-width modulation dimming works by flickering the LED lights at a speed that the human eye cannot detect. PWM dimming allows LEDs to operate at their rated electrical level, which extends their lifespan, lowers the amount of heat produced as a by-product, and also preserves the color temperature of the lights.

CCR or constant-current reduction is more similar to the dimmers that are typically used with other types of lamps. In CCR Reduction, the dimmer switch lowers the current that flows through the lamp in order to dim the lights. CCR Reduction, like PWM dimming, also reduces the heat produced by the lamp and thus extends the life of the lamp. They are very effective, but sometimes slightly alter the color temperature of the LEDs themselves.

Since LED lights operate on a much lower voltage than alternatives, another type of dimmer that can be used in place of traditional switches is a 0-10V dimmer, provided the driver that works with the circuit is a compatible driver rated according to the same voltage.

If you aren’t an electrical engineer or an electrician, it can be tough to parse all of this information and that’s why our team is here to help. Whether you want to learn more about the different types of dimmer switches for LEDs and how they work, or just want to know what will work with the LED lights that you currently have in your home, you can give us a call at 1-888-988-2852 and our team will help you get to the bottom of it. It’s important that the dimmer switch for LED lights that you use is compatible not only to achieve the results you want but to protect the components of your system. Let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll put you in touch with what you need or shed some more light on the topic.